Monday, May 16, 2011

My Response to and "What Is The Internet Hiding?" sends me emails... You know, that progressive online grassroots political action committee that helped Obama become president by spreading the word using social networking and web 2.0 stuff? It's funded by everyday people who make very small donations, but want to see things change in this country.  Find out more hereThey claim to be the largest political action committee in the US.  I enjoy MoveOn because they send out a reasonable number of brief emails about political topics of debate in congress that often include invitations to electronically sign petitions.  

They sent me a message today with the subject line "What Google and Facebook are Hiding."  I opened the email, curious.  Today the email was promoting a book written by Eli Pariser, MoveOn's political action executive director, titled The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You

Check it out here.

The free internet is an issue that MoveOn often makes a fuss about, perhaps because it is the very foundation of their power.  Internet filters that remove content based on a user's predicted interests could be devastating to an organization like MoveOn, as it could demobilize the expansion of their agenda.  This organization is proof that the Internet holds power as a tool for grassroots organizing.  It has been growing it's political agenda along with the popularity of the Internet since the 1990's.  Much of their target audience appears to be progressive youth who grew of age as the Internet became an important part of popular culture.  This is an important constituency because historically people in their 20s didn't care much to vote.  Except young people now actually care, kinda like our hippie parents taught us too, right? We made a big difference in the last presidential election.

So, I've been following the links MoveOn sends me regarding the free Internet and exercising my critical thinking about the present role of the Internet in society.  Seriously, some people think the Internet will replace libraries?  The future of information and information usage is an important factor in my career choices and life goals.  I just finished a degree to be a librarian!  I really, really care about helping people make thoughtful decisions for themselves about where they choose to find information that is trustworthy, useful, reliable, and interesting.  The future of the Internet is a problem that could determine if I am able to put food on the table in my home.  (Sorry, I'm in the middle of reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, oh yeah.  But seriously! I want to work, not go hungry.) I think it is absolutely essential that information seekers using the Internet to find important information are highly educated about the nature of the resource they are using.  It's fun for the average person to surf, but if the stakes are high, well then, what if the website we choose to trust was wrong?

I agree with MoveOn and Pariser that access to information from balanced perspectives is essential to a healthy democracy. As an avid internet user, I would prefer to know that I am able to quickly and easily access the best of what is out there...  As a librarian, I know that this Internet is a pipe dream. A huge number of websites are like asking Joe Schmoe walking down the street about his personal interests.  Anyone can publish almost anything without regard to accuracy of content, and to the uneducated information seeker this can be problematic.  For example, a friend of mind had a patch of cancerous skin.  She looked the condition up online, and discovered websites filled with frightening facts about her type of growth and horror stories about insurance companies refusing to cover expensive treatments.  When she spoke to a medical professional about her findings, she learned that her research only served to scare her half to death, not educate her about the truth of her situation.

MoveOn has been claiming for a while now that there are numerous ways that wealthy Internet companies have been manipulating vulnerable American Internet users and that these actions are a threat to our democracy.  These manipulations often are financially motivated.

An example that immediately comes to mind and pissed me off was Internet Service Providers limiting users' bandwidth to sites that conflict with their business interests.  Basically, Time Warner wasn't allowing bandwidth to users enjoying Skype because they also offer a telephone service... Grrrrrrr.  Roadrunner... Lightning Fast!  Bleep Bleeeeeep.  Hypocrites!

So anyway, the central point that Pariser makes in this video that compelled me to respond is this:  The Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, not what we need to see. (Perhaps implying political information is important.)
In other words, the largest business interests online are doing what the major television networks have done to beloved television.   They are selecting the best selling information to place as the most prominently available information.  If you took the time to watch the video linked above, you remember Pariser claims this is bad for democracy, using healthy eating as an analogy. And what a fabulous diagram he created to show us how we are being carefully sheltered from the best the Internet has to offer based on our typical information searching patterns!  All those diversely colored polka dots just beyond the borders of the sphere representing our personal online activity!!!  BECAUSE THE ONLY LINKS that "actually exist" in most peoples minds are THE FIRST FIVE and NOT THE OTHER THREE HUNDRED THIRTY TWO MILLION PLUS HITS THAT ARE COMPLETELY IGNORED BY A THE TYPICAL USER SEARCHING "EGYPT" AS HE SUGGESTED.  I'm sorry but seriously?!  What grade are we in?  Where's the freakin' World Book Encyclopedia when we need it, folks?  Or perhaps we might refine our search terms?  I wonder if Pariser's target audience are those people who think that libraries are a waste of money because everything is online anyway...  Is he aiming at the silicon valley?  facebook?  google?  Does he think he's going to change anything?  I can't answer these questions without reading his book.  I will say this:  if people out there actually think the Internet is good enough source to meet ALL their informational needs, then society is pretty much screwed and we'll end up living like the movie Idiocracy

Folks:  There is a solution!  The American public needs to realize that the Internet is not the same as television.  TV taught us to passively turn off our brains and allow values, ideas, and "entertainment" to enter our thought stream while relaxing and unwinding...  in effect allowing ourselves to be programed to think what we are told to think, and rarely think critically about life unless specifically encouraged to do so and then the critically thought out conclusions were placed before us in neat 30 or 60 minute packages, well you get the idea.  It's messed up.  But now we live in a new age:  The Age of Information!!!  This Internet thingy has a damn lot of potential to spark the public to re-educate ourselves to think.  BUT we must figure out how to USE these new found powers of communication effectively.  Good Luck.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rochester Teen Book Festival 2011!

Yesterday, May 14th, 2011 was the sixth annual Teen Book Festival!  Check out the official website here: I found the website to be extremely organized, useful, and user-friendly.  Props to those who planned the event.  From my perspective it was perfection!

When I first arrived, I was very much encouraged to see a large number of teens overflowing a gymnasium, dance to techno music with characters in goofy costumes and crowd tables to purchase books.  The writers entered the gym, one at a time after a funny introduction and answered questions to help the audience get to know them.  I found this part very useful as there were many authors who I was unfamiliar with, but at the same time I sometimes found it difficult to maintain focused attention.  I know that many volunteers were holding signs and trying to maintain order, but perhaps there was just something about the gymnasium environment, the large number of people, and the tables in the back that led me to find it difficult to remain still and focused.  I found myself alternating between wandering around and listening carefully to the introductions.  It was a really great idea to have televisions around outside the gym so that people who did not prefer the pep-rally type environment that was going on could find a peaceful spot to sit and listen.  I took advantage of this...

Later, I very much enjoyed listening to Terry Truman, Jon Skovron, Torrey Maldonado, Josh Berk, and Charles Benoit speak about creative processes and writings.  They each also read a sample from their books. I was most struck by Torrey Moldonado.  What a hottie (!) and he just wrote a great quality urban fiction novel called Secret Saturdays.  I was most inspired as he drew his teen audience in with dynamic storytelling and an engaging speaking voice that aimed to empower the kids to work toward achieving their dreams of writing while overcoming difficult obstacles, just like he himself has done in his very first novel!!!!  I must read it. As soon as I am done writing this blog entry I am headed to the library to check it out.

I was also very interested by Terry Truman.  I had never read anything of his, but a few people suggested I see him as he is quite funny.  He writes books about disabled people and does an outstanding job humanizing them using first person and common themes that relate to all teens.  I am looking forward to reading some of his books as well.

As an up-in-coming librarian, I am embarrassed to say that this was the first book festival I have ever attended.  I wish this event happened when I was of middle school age. It might have saved my fragile pre-teen self-image from over the top acting out in an effort to prove that I really was friend worthy.  It was awesome to observe the authors engaging the teens and relating to them by sharing details of their lives as teenagers, and how that helped inform their writing.  The kids just loved it. I just loved it.  And, I will even reluctantly admit I was jealous of the librarian who dyed her hair pink and wore a tiara after losing a bet with the kids over how much money they could raise.

I wanted to add one more thing I noticed.  I really like the Feedback Form.  It was really cool that they asked attendees which logo they prefer.  All questions were phrased using very positive word choices.  There was one question that I would like to use on my own feedback forms:  "Tell us, what happened today that made you want to read these books?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The large school district where I aimed to work as a school librarian after graduation has a massively huge deficit and is laying off faculty such as librarians.  This great city, with a rich history of social activism, is considering closing the door of two public libraries forever.   My personal finances are also about as awesome as that right now, but I can't shut down my kitchen or politely ask my children to stop growing so here I am. 

Hi my name is Libby and I think I would be a really awesome youth services librarian because I care a lot about helping people find information, teaching them to use it effectively, and also the future of libraries, books and reading.  My interests include education, picture books, graphic novels, manga, urban fiction, sci-fi, yoga, hiking, politics, science, math, cooking, and more but this is just what came to mind right now. I'd like to learn more about gaming in libraries, jazz music, stuff I already know about, and my little ponies (with my daughter).  Professionally I am passionate about the future of libraries, but I need to grow in my ability to advocate for both libraries and myself.  I think web 2.0 is fun, but I gotta say it's no replacement for spending real time with people.  I sometimes wonder if web 3.0 might actually replace people's brains and then they'll be walking around with an iphone for a head.  Wanna talk?  Insert txt here. 

Libraries must be visually appealing, technology rich environments that draw people in to come and relax or collaborate with others.  I see libraries as the place where people stop on a daily or weekly basis to sit at a table with a laptop, or maybe look at magazines that are too expensive too buy, but definitely worth reading (for me it might be Living Without or AdBusters), or ask for help finding a really great recipe that includes the two ripe avocados in my refrigerator and staples I keep on hand at all times.  Who knew a librarian could find a recipe that delicious that quickly?  Meanwhile the tiny people that occupy my house are listening to an amazing story and making friends with other kids.  And there are comfy chairs.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Resources for potty training!

Hi there.  I wanted to mention some resources that have been useful in my daughter's quest to learn the art and science of using the toilet.  I began this quest for information as my daughter's peers all seem to be further into their toilet training then we are, and I was very unsure of where to begin.  We have been having difficulty, mostly due to my husband's and my ignorance regarding how to approach the matter.  I took Bea to the East Rochester public library and borrowed some really great materials. These four resources, all available at the East Rochester Public Library, have kick started potty training into full gear.  Go, go, my little Beatrice!! Search term: toilet training.

Sesame Street.  Elmo's Potty Time, (dvd). 45 min.
The attitude exemplified within this video allowed my husband and I to learn the best manner in which to approach potty training.  The first time Bea watched it, she cried.  The second time, she was hooked on the potty.  For the last four days she spends nearly 7 hours per day on the potty because she wants to be sure she's ready in case something needs to come out.  She asks me to sing the songs from this movie when she's feeling discouraged.  It really helps her feel supported and loved through this major life change.  This movie is a potty training staple. 

Cole, Joanna.  My Big Girl Potty.  Harper Collins, 2000.
This book allows young ladies to relate to the main character who is also facing the challenge of learning to use the potty.  It is especially useful because it communicates that one must sit on the potty frequently when first learning.  It offers the child a healthy perspective on accidents.  The illustrations visually communicate the range of emotions felt by the girl learning and also her family.  There is a note to parents that offers tips to support a child learning to use the toilet.

Amant, Kathleen.  On Your Potty, Little Rabbit. Clavis, 2008.
This is a book that I have read about three zillion times in a row while my little one is sitting on the pot, waiting to see if something will come out.  And nothing comes out.  This book is about a little girl who puts her toy bunny on the potty, but nothing is happening for that poor rabbit.  The little girl shows the toy, step by step how to use the toilet.  The illustrations are simplified and bright, yet with enough detail to maintain a sense of realism.  This reflects the simplicity of the concepts being communicated.  Bea seems to find this book inspiring while she sits for hours on end.  I like how the pages are a stiff cardboard that is thinner than a traditional board book, yet sturdy enough to withstand a semi-rough toddler exploring the book independently.  It helps the child to feel more grown up, I think.

Vestergaard, Hope.  Potty Animals: What to Know When You've Gotta Go! Sterling, 2010.
This book is a bit more advanced than the typical potty training book as it addresses more advanced skills and the characters are attending pre-school.  Often times children enjoy emulating others who are just a little bit older and more experienced then themselves.  My daughter studied this book while sitting and asks plenty of questions about the potty mistakes the animal characters made.  When she internalizes all the lessons contained in this book she will become a potty expert!  She will probably have better bathroom manners than some adults I know...